| In August, 1884 at the Annual Convention, the Colored Baptists of the State of Arkansas, founded the "minister's Institute." Three months later in November of 1884, the school opened at the Mount Zion Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. The school was renamed "Arkansas Baptist College," in April 1885.
According to its historical mission, Arkansas Baptist College was founded with the primary goal of raising the educational level of the Negro ministry, with the secondary goal being to assist the state of Arkansas in preparing young Negro men and women with a "normal" education. These goals have since been expanded to providing educational opportunities to all persons seeking an education without regard to age, sex, race, religion, or national origin.
The Executive Board of the Convention hired Reverend J.P. Lawson, a white Baptist minister from Joplin, Missouri, to serve as the principal teacher. A block of land was purchased for $5000 from Attorney Blake Turner at 16th and High Street within the city limits of Little Rock. It was here at this site that several buildings were erected and the Arkansas Baptist College campus came into being, and remains to this day.
The first president was Dr. Joseph A. Booker who served from 1887 until his death in 1926. He was succeeded by Reverend S. P. Nelson, Reverend R.C. Woods and Reverend S. R. Tillinghast respectively. Dr. Tandy W. Coggs, the fifth president, served from 1937-1955. It was during the tenure of Dr. Coggs in 1947 that the college received its initial two year accreditation from the Arkansas State Department of Education. President Coggs was succeeded respectively by Dr. Oscar Allan Rogers, Dr. Charles E. Johnson, Mr. Howard Johnson and Dr. P. L. Rowe. On July 1, 1962, Dr. James C. Oliver was elected as the tenth president of Arkansan Baptist College. During Dr. Oliver was also successful in getting Arkansas Baptist College placed on the North Central Association list for candidacy status. He operated the college on a cash debt-free basis, until the end of his tenure. When poor health forced Dr. Oliver to relinquish his active role as president, Dr. R. C. Davis, Title III Coordinator, became the interim president for approximately three years.
Dr. W. Thomas Keaton was elected as the eleventh President on July 26, 1985. Under his administration, Arkansas Baptist College received full accreditation from the Commission on Higher Learning of the North Central Association and the national Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Other notable improvements during his administration include the computerization of the campus library, construction of the Hazel Shanks Henson Multi-purpose Center, the W. T. Keaton Men's Residence Hall, and the renovation of the college gymnasium. Dr. Keaton retired in August 2001 and Mrs. Mary R. Jarrett, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, was appointed as Interim President until October 2001.
Dr. Israel R. Dunn, Jr. was elected as the twelfth President of Arkansas Baptist College in October of 2001. However, his tenure did not commence until February 2002. Dr. Dunn's visionary plan propelled the college into a "mode of change." He attempted to reorganize and restructure the campus by implementing a Four-Tier Priority Plan for institutional advancement that included the following components: Enrollment Management, Internal Controls and Improved Infrastructure, Student Services, and Facilities Planning.
Dr. Dunn resigned in May 2005. Mrs. Mary Jarrett was appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve as Acting President. The appointment lasted until February 2006. The thirteenth President, Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, was elected in January and assumed office on February 1, 2006.